Streetwise Professor

October 18, 2018

The Khashoggi Affair: A La Le Duc d’Enghien, It Is Worse Than A Crime: It Is A Blunder

Filed under: Politics — cpirrong @ 11:44 am

The Khashoggi affair reminds me of what was said about Napoleon’s murder of the Duc d’Enghien: “It was worse than a crime.  It was a blunder.”  As with the d’Enghien murder, the (likely) murder of Khashoggi has made the perpetrator a monster in the eyes of the world.

That said, some things should be kept in mind.

First, the sole source of reports on what happened is Turkey–and mostly via leaks, rather than official announcements.  There are lurid tales, allegedly based on recordings–but no recordings have been produced.

And Turkey is hardly a disinterested party here.  Instead, it is a major player in the Game of Thrones that is Middle Eastern politics.  In this game, Turkey is allied with Qatar.  Further, Turkey owes Qatar major favors: in August, at the height of the panic in the Turkish Lira, Qatar announced it would invest $15 billion in Turkey.  Qatar, of course, is involved in a death match with Saudi Arabia, and has been for some years: KSA and other Arab states are currently blockading Qatar.  Turkey’s president Erdogan is a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood (having at times flashed the Brotherhood’s hand signal, like some gangbanger), and Qatar is the Brotherhood’s biggest supporter: the current regime in KSA is a sworn enemy of the Brotherhood, and the Brotherhood is bent on the regime’s overthrow.

Also remember that Turkey is at odds with the US; is a notorious persecutor of journalists (a fact that has gone strangely unremarked); and exceedingly duplicitous.

Second, ignore all of the portrayals of Khashoggi as some sort of crusading reformer, and brave journalist.  To say his past is sordid and discreditable is an understatement.  He is a longtime Islamist who cavorted with Bin Laden.  He was press secretary for Turki al Faisal, former head of intelligence in the KSA (before resigning 10 days prior to 9/11), and one of the most sinister figures in a very sinister regime.

Third, it is wrong to think of Saudi Arabia as being ruled by a monolithic regime.  The sprawling royal family is split into at least four major factions (each with its own sub-factions) that are fighting beneath the carpets.  The crown prince has been waging a war against those factions that are opposed to him.  Khashoggi was almost certainly a participant in that war, and given his background, he was likely associated with the factions that were connected to (and maybe more than just connected to) the elements in the Kingdom that have supported jihadis in their war against the US, including those who carried out 9/11.  I have no doubt that his private actions are starkly at odds with his recent public persona.

Fourth, everyone in power in the Middle East sucks.  Every. Single. One.  There are no angels.  Only demons.  The Khashoggi affair is the result of the wars between these demons.  Some of the conflicts are international: Iran v. KSA; Qatar vs. KSA. Some are internal to KSA.  And these external and internal conflicts feed on one another.

Alas, the US has to pick its way through this snake pit, and determine which vipers best advance American interests.  For years, the viper of choice has been the KSA, and it’s hard to see how that can change now.  Put differently, there is no regime in the ME that does NOT torture and murder opponents.  None.  The purported details of the Khashoggi murder are lurid indeed, but they are likely the exception only in that we’ve heard about them.  Given that there are no non-murderous, non-torturing regimes on offer, the US has to make strategic decisions based on ruthless calculations of interest.

Fifth, and relatedly, it is annoying beyond belief to see the repeated reenactments of Claude Rains’/Captain Renault’s “Shocked! Shocked!” routine played out in response to these events.  Where have these people been since, oh, I don’t know, forever?  It should also be noted that many of the latter day Captain Renaults are just as disingenuous as he was in Casablanca: many are ex-Obama officials, or supporters of the Iran deal, who view this as an opportunity to undermine Trump administration policy.  Indeed, one of the blunders that KSA has committed is to make this possible.

To sum up, although what allegedly transpired in Istanbul could change everything, it in fact represents a grim continuity and the perverse “normality” of the Middle East.  It would be nice if that wasn’t the case, but it is.  Which is why the region is a perpetual running sore on the global body politic.

One last note.  Napoleon survived the international reaction to the judicial murder of d’Enghien.  Of course, militarily he was stronger than Mohammed bin Salman, but the historical analogy shows that international outrage does not necessarily translate into political or geopolitical defeat.  Indeed, the murder of d’Enghien arguably tamped down domestic opposition to Napoleon, and he used the assassination plots that allegedly involved d’Enghien to justify his becoming emperor.  Don’t be surprised if something similar happens within Saudi Arabia.

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  1. many are ex-Obama officials, or supporters of the Iran deal,: What’s the relation…..Gosh I stopped reading your article when I arrived on this sentence. Obama officials deserve repudiating without and need to bring up Iran. You’re just another sick puppy on a keyboard…..bullocks! Hate!

    Comment by Ghifari AL Mukhtar — October 19, 2018 @ 5:41 pm

  2. Oh yeah! He isn’t going any where. Most of these Western analysis trade incompetent theories albeit that they see the US UK France Germany Israel and the Netherlands as some civil acolytes of our civilisation. They are no less butchers of our humanity, just look at their history or current military budgets and halls of glory; its War War War

    Comment by Ghifari AL Mukhtar — October 19, 2018 @ 6:03 pm

  3. The Top Story is and should always be ….Where did it happen….Go research the Laws of the Genevieve conventions…….How did the first world war began….the Duke and his wife was murdered in spite of the Convention( Diplomatic cover was violated.It means that No one is safe and the fact that Israel EU&US have practice this and is now extended as a privilege to subordinate states i.e. GCC States and Kiev, sends a deeply frightening message to all of civilisation.They are destroying their own institutions now that they believe that they are without threat of judicial reprimand and think that they’re are more powerful than God/Allah.

    Comment by Ghifari AL Mukhtar — October 19, 2018 @ 8:01 pm

  4. Let them rabid dogs bite each other, that’s my view. Fascinating to see, but only if you’re behind the glass and five iron barriers.
    And I feel it should be Trump’s view, too.

    Comment by ETat — October 23, 2018 @ 6:01 am

  5. Funny, how Ghifari M. above claimed he stopped reading you at 5:41pm, but then felt compelled to chew on this unpalatable piece of anti-Iran propaganda to the bitter end…at 8:01pm.
    ~3hrs of boiled bile! No wonder Genevieve convention came to swords with his allah!
    Poor, demented Ghifari boy.

    Comment by ETat — October 23, 2018 @ 6:06 am

  6. @ETat–I’d noticed the same. LOL.

    Comment by cpirrong — October 23, 2018 @ 6:02 pm

  7. @ETat–That’s exactly what I meant by everyone in power over there sucks, and US policy should be driven by a ruthless support of interest.

    Comment by cpirrong — October 23, 2018 @ 6:03 pm

  8. This is an excellent analysis, thank you.

    Comment by Ellie — October 28, 2018 @ 9:43 am

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